Dancing About Architecture

A: The Flatliners

The above is of course the answer to Q: What do you call Joe Ely, Butch Hancock, and Jimmie Dale Gilmore if their careers all tank at once? That's not to suggest that they all have; Ely, for instance, has a brand-new album out on MCA that's destined for rave reviews and a lengthy tour with Mary Chapin Carpenter destined for plush music halls. His friend Gilmore, meanwhile, following his departure from Elektra last year, is in the latter stages of trying to decide whether to take the bait of a half-dozen labels (including Nonesuch) or go the Hancock route and start self-releasing his albums. And Butch? Well, there just might be something in this week's music section about him. Even with all that, all three will appear as the Flatlanders next Thursday on the Late Show With David Letterman. The Flat ball got rolling when the three friends contributed a track to the Horse Whisperer soundtrack, and picked up speed during South by Southwest when the trio performed an impromptu set at Ely's house. Because of the aforementioned tour, Ely won't have time for much more Flatlanding in the next few months, but a spokesman for the local institution says there's a lot of talk of the three putting out an album together in the fall. Gilmore's manager Mike Crowley says that the situation is unpredictable as the Flatlanders "were never a band, they were a group of friends." If and when the guys assemble, they have yet to decide "if there is another great Flatlanders record" to be made.

Hangin' It Up

It's still up in the air as to whether Steven Spielberg will be moving in, but Hang 'Em High Saloon owner Shane Widner confirms that the days of the high-dollar Sixth Street country music venue are numbered either way. "We've seen a serious downturn in country music" both nationally and locally, he says. Since Widner owns the building as well as the business, he's negotiating with several parties - including the Spielberg/Dreamworks-owned GameWorks - as to who can best utilize the space. Widner says that it's also possible that he may remodel the building and open another establishment there himself. The potential opening of GameWorks in the space is especially interesting, considering the problems the adult gameroom company has had previously attempting to open a location here. Under Texas law, a business owned by a liquor company cannot be granted a liquor license, and since GameWorks' parent company is Seagrams, they were denied said license before. As far as the Hang 'Em High, you still have time to say "so long" to the place. Widner says this Saturday was originally slated for a closing party, but he decided to wait and keep the place open until a deal has been signed. I guess you could call it a stay of execution.

In other openings/closings news, no deal has been signed yet, but Direct Events owner Tim O'Connor is in the process of negotiations that may lead to him adding Ranch Studios to his stable of venues. An eviction notice for the current tenants posted at the Studios apparently bears no connection with that deal according to a representative of the Ranch. Also, a last minute e-mail from Fringeware about last Tuesday's appearance by Bindlestiff Cirkus at the store explained that the Cirkus' "original venue in Austin for this tour, the Voodoo Lounge, closed its doors suddenly." A call to the Voodoo found the club's phone disconnected, but beyond that it's never been easy to tell whether the Lounge is dead or alive.

The Week in Fastball

And to think I was worried that there wouldn't be any news about Fastball this week and that I'd have to make something up. I was ready to go with a bogus announcement that the crew at Hollywood Records had given the go-ahead for an ad campaign based on the Heart of Texas Dodge commercials, using the slogan "Don't forget Fastball, and don't forget Miles!" But I should never have doubted that there would actually be something to report on the boys; after all, you still can't get out of the way of "The Way." A civilian friend of mine outside of the Austin music army says it was the first song he heard when he arrived in California; another friend says he's heard the song paired with Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" on the radio instead of "some awful alternative crap" and therefore the band can be proud no matter where their career goes after this. Myself, I simply cannot escape the song; I got up for a few minutes at 5am this morning and made a quick flip through the channels. Sure enough, guess what video was running on MTV? (It most definitely wasn't followed by "Iron Man," however.) Anyway, the news: Fastball's album All the Pain Money Can Buy officially went gold this week. That's all. That's the news. Go on reading the column.

A New Spin on Your Butt

The reviews are starting to come in left and right on the Butthole Surfers' new album, with SPIN offering a fairly positive report, Alternative Press giving a big thumbs down, and various Internet services like Addicted To Noise putting in their two cents' worth as well. Unfortunately, at this writing, there's still no sign of when the album will come out, or even whether it will bear the same title and songs as the advance that's being written up! For the record, the SPIN and AP pieces show that opinions are indeed like, well, buttholes; the former calls the album inconsistent, but lauds After the Astronaut (at least that's what the copy they have was called) with compliments like "there's a hardening seriousness beneath the tomfoolery," and "even when they're reaching within themselves, they're reaching farther than most," and "[the song `Last Astronaut'] is the Buttholes at their best, embracing the chaos of contemporary culture with high flippancy and gaping awe, at once sublime and ridiculous." The latter savages the disc with barbed phrases like "slow wussification," "milk finally gone sour," and even the dreaded "territory only Beck should be allowed." So who cares what reviewers say? Well, in this case, it's not so much what they say as the fact that they're saying it. Both Capitol Records and the Buttholes have insisted that the album's delay is simply due to things like artwork and release schedules, but sources close to the band continue to suggest that the label and band don't exactly see eye-to-eye on the project. If either party were ever unsure as to whether they wanted to continue their association with the other, the appearance of these reviews now means there's just that much more publicity they won't get when they need it. We'll have more on this story as it occurs.

Mixed Notes

There's a musical assembly this Sunday at La Zona Rosa to raise money for Texas Monthly staffer Jan Reid, who you recall was shot on a recent visit to Mexico. Starting at 7pm, the event features Ana Egge, Kinky Friedman, Tish Hinojosa, Jimmy LaFave, Bruce Robison & Kelly Willis, K.R. Wood and the all-star Fathers of Texas...

This Friday also marks the second benefit for Alison Kennedy at Liberty Lunch, with Velvet Hammer, Killing Ophelia, Laughing Dogs, LeeAnn Atherton Band, Laurie Freelove, and Shrodinger's Cat...

With Lucinda Williams' long-stalled Car Wheels on a Gravel Road finally on the way from the Mercury Records at the end of June, the Koch label is taking the opportunity to put out a "deluxe repackaging" of her long-out-of-print Lucinda Williams album, which was originally released in 1988 on the now-defunct Rough Trade label. The re-release hits stores in mid-June and includes six bonus tracks and new liner notes from the songstress and her father, poet laureate Miller Williams...

Among those being inducted into the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame this year are Johnny Gimble, Bob Boatright, and the Jimmy Heap Band. You can catch the festivities, headlined by the Texas Playboys II, Saturday evening in San Marcos, which, as part of the Texas Natural Weekend, will feature Western swing bands throughout the weekend in the town's downtown square region...

The antithesis of the above would have to be Melodica 1998 at the Electric Lounge today (Thursday) through Sunday, with Paul Newman, Quaquaversal, Ohm, Drums & Tuba, Big Swifty, and Sixteen Deluxe among roughly 30 bands scheduled to perform. Check the listings for the complete lineup...

If you've been reading our television column, you already know about Austin City Limits' excursions into blues territory. Today (Thursday), those vibes continue with the Big Blues Extravaganza at the Travis County Exposition Center, where Delbert McClinton, Buddy Guy, Jimmie Vaughan, Gatemouth Brown, Marcia Ball, and Tracy Nelson will help celebrate the release of ACL's new CD of the same name...

KGSR is putting on a free party at Stubb's this Friday, with Matthew Ryan, Cotton Mather, and Sixpence None the Richer. The first 500 people to donate an unwanted shirt will receive one of the station's new Ts, so make sure and bring along that Vanilla Ice tour shirt and make a homeless fella happy...

This week marks the release of gospel group Malachi's new King of Kings album from Sunshine and Rain Productions. Secular listeners may remember the group from their appearance at this year's Austin Music Awards...

Secular Groove's CD On the Lighter Side of Hate has been out for a month or so, but you can still go catch them at Nasty's this weekend and pretend it's a release party...

Celt act SixMileBridge's appropriately titled Across the Water is the cause for a release party this Friday at McGillicuddy's, and you can expect to see more Celticisms in the column as benefits start up over the summer towards funding the big Celtic Festival in October...

Jet Jaguar is having a CD release party for their Oh So Hi-Fi album this Saturday at the Hole in the Wall. Also on the bill are Wheel Local 404 (headlining) and Stickpony... Mayor Kirk Watson has declared today (Thursday) to be Bevis Griffin Day in Austin. You can observe the festivities of this event on Channel 6 as part of the live City Council broadcast, and if your reaction to the assignment of an official day for the Papa Mali man is "when do I get my day?" I'll answer that question next week...

Corrections: The collaboration between Sambaxe and the Silver Thistle is not called Sambaxe Thistle but Samba Thistle. And in the "did I really type that?" category, Mark Proct was never Stevie Ray Vaughan's manager; he does continue to manage brother Jimmie Vaughan...

-Contributors: Raoul Hernandez, Andy Langer, Margaret Moser

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More Dancing About Architecture
Dancing About Architecture
Dancing About Architecture
The last installment of "Dancing About Architecture."

Ken Lieck, Jan. 3, 2003

So Long, Slug
So Long, Slug

Ken Lieck, Dec. 20, 2002

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